ARLINGTON, Va. — It doesn’t take a germaphobe to feel the need to be extra careful about touching surfaces inside a hospital and slather on some hand sanitizer frequently when visiting patients. A recent study finds, however, that many people don’t realize they’re constantly in contact with one of the filthiest hospital surfaces of all at all times whenever they’re in the building: the floor.
The study, published by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) and Epidemiology, determined that because items in the patient’s room can come into contact with the floor, bacteria or viruses can easily spread to frequently-used areas of the room and eventually onto the hands of others.
“Even though most facilities believe they are taking the proper precautions, this study points out the importance of ensuring cleanliness of the hospital environment and the need for education of both staff and patients on this issue,” says 2017 APIC president Linda Greene in a news release.
Researchers found that hospital floors tested positive for an array of pathogens after examining 159 patient rooms in five Cleveland-area hospitals. Each room, which included some that were used as isolation rooms for people being treated for a C.diff infection, was swabbed in two sites. Even the researchers’ hands were tested, whether gloved or bare, along with the frequently-used areas of the rooms, such as linens, call buttons, medical devices and supplies.
The results showed a cocktail of pathogens found on the floor: MRSA, C.diff, and the antibiotic-resistant VRE all showed up after testing. C.diff was discovered most often, regardless of whether nurses swabbed an isolation room for patients suffering from the effects of the bacteria, or one that was clean.
Researchers also found that about 41 percent of the rooms had at least one “high-touch object” make contact with the floor.
“Efforts to improve disinfection in the hospital environment usually focus on surfaces that are frequently touched by the hands of healthcare workers or patients,” says Abhishek Deshpande, et al. “Although healthcare facility floors are often heavily contaminated, limited attention has been paid to disinfection of floors because they are not frequently touched. The results of our study suggest that floors in hospital rooms could be an underappreciated source for dissemination of pathogens and are an important area for additional research.”
The study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control.